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You will never be stuck for something to do in Hanoi, where ancient and proudly preserved Vietnamese culture is felt most keenly by visitors, and progress wrestles with tradition in different districts of the city.

Hanoi is actually over 1000 years old so the wealth of history here is mind boggling: temples, ancient citadels, unique theatre and stunning wilderness just outside the city all offer fun-filled days in Vietnam’s capital. Make sure to visit as many of these attractions in Hanoi as possible because they all offer entertainment, beauty and education at different turns. Enjoy our list of Best Things to Do in Hanoi below.

1. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long Hanoi

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, is an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history and, signifying its historical and cultural importance, was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Also known as the Hanoi Citadel, many artefacts and items dating back to between the 6th and 20th centuries were excavated in 2004, including foundations of old palaces, ancient roads, ponds and wells.

On top of these discoveries, archaeologists also found bronze coins, ceramics and pottery from China and many places in Asia, all of which demonstrate a close trading relationship in the area. Visitors should head for the display room that features interesting excavated items and mock-ups of the citadel itself. Read more…

2. Water Puppet Theatre

Water puppet in Hanoi

The world-famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi has its roots in an art form that dates back to the 11th century. The tradition of water puppet theatre stems from a time when rice paddy fields were flooded and villagers would make entertainment by standing in the waist-deep water with the puppets performing over the water.

Using large rods to support the puppets it appeared as if they were moving across the water with the puppeteers hidden behind a screen. Read more…

3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

HCM Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square is one of the most visited attractions in Hanoi. It is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, the most iconic and popular leader of Vietnam, known to his people as ‘Uncle Ho’. His body is preserved here in a glass case at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in central Hanoi (albeit against his wishes).

For visitors, a trip to Uncle Ho’s final resting place can be an extraordinary experience as it is not just an average attraction; it’s a part of a unique history. Read more…

4. The Perfume Pagoda

Perfume Pagoda

The Perfume Pagoda, known locally as Chua Huong or ‘inner temple’, is at the centre of a very revered and sacred site featuring a maze of mainly Buddhist temples built into the limestone cliffs of Huong Tich. At the heart of this complex lies the Perfume Temple or Perfume Pagoda in the Huong Tich Cave.

It is believed that the first temple was built here in the 15th century, although legend declares that the site was actually discovered over 2,000 years ago by a Buddhist monk who was meditating nearby. The mountain foothills are an area of great natural and spiritual beauty filled with streams, tropical plants and temples.

There are many pagodas to visit, each offering a different shrine, most of which are Buddhist although one or two are animist. The Perfume Pagoda attracts pilgrims and tourists seeking good luck from the stalagmites and stalactites inside the cave which have been named according to the individual blessing they can bestow. Dun Tien offers prosperity and Nui Co offers the chance of giving birth to a girl whilst Dun Gao translates as a ‘rice stack’ to those hoping for a bountiful harvest. Read more…

5. Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son

Ngoc Son Temple

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi attracts tourists and locals looking to get away from the noise and frenetic pace of the city. Peaceful and quiet, the lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the centre on a small island.

The temple attracts many visitors and was built in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty.

Homage is also paid to scholar Van Xuong and Confucian master Nguyen Van Sieu. The island on which the temple is built is known as Jade Island and is accessible by the iconic Huc Bridge or Rising Sun Bridge which is a charming scarlet-painted wooden bridge of classical Vietnamese design. The pagoda is also guarded by two towering posts decorated with Chinese writing. The lake and temple are probably the most famous places in Hanoi city in which to rest and enjoy the view and are a great place to sit back and watch the locals. Read more…

6. Ba Vi National Park

Ba Vi National Park

Ba Vi National Park is one of Vietnam’s most famous areas of outstanding natural beauty, and is centered around a three-peaked mountain jutting steeply out of the landscape. The national park offers a great escape from the city with cool fresh mountain air in a mystical atmospheric backdrop of clouds, jungle and tropical rainforest. There is also a spa resort nestled at the foot of the mountain offering a host of natural therapies in an absolutely stunning setting.

The three mountain summits are Dinh Vua which is the highest at 1,296m, Tan Vien which is 1,226m and Ngoc Hoa the smallest at 1,131m. Together they form a three humped crest which is often obscured by clouds at the highest point due to the varied climate at the park. Pilgrims and tourists alike usually make the walk to the summit of the Tan Vien peak where an 11th sacred century shrine stands in memory of the Mountain God. Read more…

7. Hanoi Opera House

Opera House Hanoi

The beautiful Hanoi Opera House was built in 1911 by the then ruling French. It’s a phenomenal piece of neo-classical French architecture featuring Gothic themes on the doors and domes with pillars, shuttered windows, balconies and a glass room. Musicians, actors and dancers play to a 600-strong audience delivering powerful operatic and classical performances, making it a very popular theatrical attraction.

The Hanoi Opera House is the biggest theatre in Vietnam and speaks volumes as historical and cultural evidence of Vietnam under French rule. The interior is even more magnificent than the exterior with many arguing it is aesthetically even more appealing than the Paris Opera House. Visitors today will be entertained at this architectural landmark which features a range of events including local Vietnamese opera, traditional folk music, ballets and many international concerts. Read more…

8. Temple of Literature

Hanoi Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature is often cited as one of Hanoi’s most picturesque tourist attractions. Originally built as a university in 1070 dedicated to Confucius, scholars and sages, the building is extremely well preserved and is a superb example of traditional-style Vietnamese architecture.

This ancient site offers a lake of literature, the Well of Heavenly Clarity, turtle steles, pavilions, courtyards and passageways that were once used by royalty. Visiting the Temple of Literature you will discover historic buildings from the Ly and Tran dynasties in a revered place that has seen thousands of doctors’ graduate in what has now become a memorial to education and literature. Read more…

9. Bach Ma Temple

Bach Ma Temple

Bach Ma Temple is believed to be the oldest temple in Hanoi. This Buddhist temple was originally built in the ninth century by King Ly Thai To in honour of Bach Ma. According to a sign inside the temple, originally the site of the temple was Long Do Mountain. The temple was moved to its current location in the Old Quarter of Hanoi in the 18th century, during the Ly Dynasty, to guard the east side of Thang Long.

The translation of Bach Ma is White Horse  and this refers to a story behind the construction of the Temple. King Ly thai To had been struggling building the temple as its walls kept collapsing . It is said that a white horse delineated the best area to build the temple with its hooves to help the king in constructing the temple. Read more…

10. Bat Trang Ceramic villages

Bat Trang Ceramic

Bat Trang Ceramics Village is a 14th century porcelain and pottery village near Hanoi, housing local artisans who combine both traditional and modern techniques to create beautiful porcelain artworks. Not only are you able to purchase some of the finest handmade ceramic products in Vietnam, you can also see them made right before your eyes during your visit.

Located next to the Red River within the Gia Lam District, Bat Trang Ceramics Village Hanoi holds an important place in history of the ceramics industry in Asia, as it’s close to trading ports Thang Long and Pho Hien. Today, visitors can explore its many ceramic stores and workshops to browse through a vast selection of vases, bowls, cups, and plates. Read more…

11. Duong Lam Villages

Duong Lam Village

Located at Son Tay town, 40km away from Hanoi, Duong Lam ancient village is another spot for a weekend getaway. The village preserves an entire community of the traditional Vietnamese way of life – agriculture-based and Buddhism-influenced. Read more…

12. National Museum of Vietnamese History

 

National Museum of Vietnam History

The National Museum of Vietnamese History occupies a picturesque, two-storey French colonial building in the French Quarter, where visitors can find an array of antiques, sculptures and weapons discovered in Vietnam throughout the years. Open daily, standout exhibits include a 1,000-armed sculpture of the Goddess of Mercy, artefacts from the Khmer and Champa kingdoms, as well as weapons from the Bronze Age. There’s also a souvenir shop within the grounds of National Museum of Vietnamese History, offering coffee table books on Vietnam and traditional handicrafts at affordable prices.

13. Quan Thanh Temple Hanoi

Quan Thanh Temple

Quan Thanh Temple is a Taoist temple build during the Ly Dynasty (1010-1225) and can be found in Hanoi. They have built this place to honour ‘Tran Vo’ the ‘God of the North’ which was beloved by all local Taoists and used the tortoise and snake as symbols of power. The name Quan Thanh therefore resembles the temple’s meaning as it translates to ‘Place of the Gods’. Read more…

14. Tran Quoc Pagoda Hanoi

Tran Quoc Pagoda Hanoi

Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest of its kind in Hanoi, dating back to the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De Dynasty (544 – 548). The Buddhist shrine has undergone several changes throughout the years, particularly its renaming from An Quoc to Tran Quoc (protecting the country) by Emperor Le Huy Tong in the 17th century.

Although it’s now set on an islet within West Lake, the pagoda was originally located on banks of Red River before it’s relocated in 1615due to the river’s encroachment. Surrounded by lush greenery, Tran Quoc Pagoda was a favourite amongst the kings and royal families for festivals, full moons, and Tet Festival. Read more…

15. Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi

Museum of Ethnology

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi offers an insight into the 54 different ethnic groups of Vietnam in an effort to preserve cultural heritage and promote socio-cultural diversity within the country.

Visitors are welcome to browse some of the vast research on offer at this public museum which is also a centre for ethnographic research.

The museum is packed full of information detailing traditional Vietnamese ways of life, from religious events to the symbolic rituals of all the Vietnamese ethnic groups, providing a rich tapestry of the culture melting pot existing in Vietnam. The exhibition hall features everyday objects representing each group, a research centre, library and auditorium. Read more…

>>> Reading more about: National Museum of Vietnamese History ||Top 10 Attractions in Hanoi Cuc Phuong National Park – Full Day Trip | Halong Bay Overnight Cruises | Vietnam Travel Guide – All you need to know before travelling to Vietnam

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